Student Well-Being

What NCAA Penalties Mean for Penn State Athletes, Recruits

By Bryan Toporek — July 23, 2012 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

The NCAA laid the hammer down on Pennsylvania State University Monday, with NCAA president Mark Emmert announcing “unprecedented” penalties that will cripple the school’s football program for the next half-decade, at the very least.

For current Penn State football players and incoming recruits, the NCAA’s penalties open the door for a massive exodus of talent over the next few years.

The punishments stemmed from the child-sex-abuse scandal involving former Penn State assistant coach Jerry Sandusky, who last month was convicted of 45 counts of sexual abuse of 10 boys.

The NCAA levied a $60 million fine against the Penn State football program, to be paid over the next five years, which will go toward an endowment for child-sex-abuse victims and the prevention of such abuse. The university cannot downsize or eliminate other sports programs to help pay the $12 million/year sanctions.

Current Penn State players and recruits will also feel the impact of these penalties by virtue of a four-year postseason ban, beginning with this coming school year. Penn State football will be ineligible for any bowls or conference championship games through the 2015-16 season, which could very well influence top recruits to steer clear from the program.

Along with the postseason ban comes a four-year reduction in athletic scholarships for football players, starting with the 2013-14 school year. Penn State will only be allowed to grant 15 new scholarships each season (compared to the maximum of 25) through 2016-17.
Starting in 2014-15 and going through 2017-18, Penn State can only have a total of 65 football players on scholarships, compared to the typical maximum of 85, under the penalties.

While it’s not the so-called “death penalty” levied against Southern Methodist University’s football program in the late 1980s, the NCAA says, “taken in sum, [the sanctions] far exceed the severity of shutting down the program for a year or two.”

“What some refer to as the death penalty was not severe enough,” according to the organization.

“Our goal is not to just to be punitive, but to make sure the university establishes an athletic culture and daily mindset in which football will never again be placed ahead of educating, nurturing, and protecting young people,” Emmert said Monday morning while announcing the penalties.

Current and incoming Penn State football players will be allowed to transfer from the school and compete immediately at their new school, provided that they’ve satisfied all other eligibility (read: academic) requirements.

Any football player who decides to remain at Penn State can maintain his athletic scholarship by satisfying academic requirements, regardless of whether or not he continues participating on the football team, Emmert announced.

As Baylor head basketball coach Scott Drew told Gary Parrish of, this scandal and these punishments will have wide-ranging implications past the football team.

“The people who only know of Penn State what they’re reading nationally probably aren’t going to be interested in going to Penn State right now,” Drew said to Parrish. “So Penn State might have to rely more on prospects and families who know more about Penn State than what’s in the news...”

Combined with the laundry list of penalties, allowing all current football players to transfer could easily lead to a dearth of talent for the program for the next half-decade. As Yahoo! Sports’ Dan Wetzel writes, Penn State won’t have “a full complement of scholarships across all four of its classes” until 2020.

The NCAA wasn’t kidding around when it claimed these punishments were worse than the death penalty for the program.

Workers cover the statue of former Penn State football coach Joe Paterno as they move it from outside the school’s football stadium on July 22. The university announced that it was taking down the monument in the wake of an investigative report that found the late coach and three other top Penn State administrators concealed sex abuse claims against retired assistant coach Jerry Sandusky. (Christopher Weddle/ Centre Daily Times/AP)

Related Tags:

A version of this news article first appeared in the Schooled in Sports blog.